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Major outbreaks of pandemics in history

All around the world we are constantly experiencing and responding to outbreaks of infectious disease. Some are contained, others unfortunately are not.

This timeline is a summary of the major outbreaks through history.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), was a successfully contained epidemic which had the potential to become a devastating pandemic. It was short lived; first detected in 2002 and declared contained the following year (WHO, 2004). During this time it spread to 26 different countries and affected over 8000 people, killing over 700 (WHO, 2003). The rapid implementation of IPC protocols such as isolating suspected cases helped significantly in containing SARS.

By contrast, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has not been successfully contained and is currently a pandemic. Although first detected in 1981 (CDC, 1981), it may have originated during the 1920s (Faria et al., 2014). As of 2016, it had killed over 35 million people (WHO, 2018). It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and as of 2016, over 36.7 million people were living with the virus (WHO, 2018). African countries are the most affected, with a staggering 70% of HIV cases (WHO, 2018). Although the incidence (new cases) of HIV has fallen by 39% since 2000, AIDS still presents a serious global health and economic problem (WHO, 2018).

Your Task

Study the history of pandemics timeline then attempt the poll question in the next Step.


Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1981). Pneumocystis pneumonia – Los Angeles. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 30(21), 1-3.

Faria, N. R., Rambout, A., Suchard, M. A., Baele, G., Bedord, T., Ward, M. J., …& Lemey, P. (2014). The early spread and epidemic ignition of HIV-1 in human populations. Science, 346(6206), 56-61.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2003). WHO guidelines for the global surveillance of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Updated recommendations, October 2004. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/WHO_CDS_CSR_ARO_2004_1/en/

World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Summary of probable SARS cases with onset of illness from 1 November 2002 to 31 July 2003. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/csr/sars/country/table2004_04_21/en/

World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids

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Plagues, Pestilence and Pandemics: Are You Ready?

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